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Texas A&M Football

SEC Round-Up: Alabama-Georiga could confirm long-term shifts in SEC

October 15, 2020

Many antiquated ideas in college football have gone by the wayside: Polls to crown national champions, the Wishbone, tearaway jerseys…

The adage that “offense wins games and defense wins championships” might be next.

All eight national champions from 2011 to 2018 featured Top 20 defenses. Last year, LSU’s defense was ranked 31st. That’s not bad, but everybody knew LSU won because of its high-scoring offense.

That might have been signaled an end to the defense wins championships theory. The Alabama-Georgia clash on Saturday could confirm it.

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Georgia’s defense held Tennessee to -1 yard on the ground last weekend, but they’ll be tested by Najee Harris this week.

No. 2 Alabama (3-0) has a dynamic offense but a mediocre defense. No. 3 Georgia has a powerful defense but a rather mundane offense.

The Bulldogs did score 44 points in a victory over Tennessee last week, but one touchdown was scored by their defense. The Dawgs also got two field goals after taking over in great field position following Tennessee turnovers.

Georgia held Tennessee to minus-1 yard rushing. That fact is not lost on Alabama star running back Najee Harris, who rushed for 206 yards and five touchdowns in last week’s 63-48 victory over Ole Miss.

“Georgia, if you look at what they did to Tennessee last game, that just motivates me even more because, you know, when you line up against them, it’s straight dudes out there,” Harris said. “It’s dogs, really. This is a motivating game for all of us. It motivates me more because I feel like I have to be on top of my game even more, to know that we can come out of this game victorious.”

And the Georgia defense has to be at the top of its game. Even then, can the Bulldogs slow down Alabama?

Even coach Kirby Start doesn’t seem sure.

“What's made them succeed well is players,” Smart said. “They've got really good players. [Alabama Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian] does a great job of implementing the system that the kids can execute. It's based on really hard guys to cover outside. They've got one of, probably the best backs in the country, if not one of the best backs in the country. Najee runs the ball really hard, and they are massive upfront.

The Tuscaloosa News-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama’s offense has the ability to beat you on the ground with Harris or through the air, as Mac Jones has multiple future NFL draft choices to throw to.

“Offensively, they are not built like some of these teams that go tempo the whole time and go hurry-up the whole time. They can go up-tempo, and they do tempo well, but they are really big. They can take shots down the field with explosive wideouts they have. They make you defend the entire field.”

Of course, even if Georgia is able to prevail, that won’t necessarily prove defense still wins championships.  Alabama coach Nick Saban has tested positive for  COVID-19 and won’t be on the sidelines.

Besides, a championship is truly at stake. These teams won’t play for a championship until they meet in the SEC championship game (which is expected).

That is unless Georgia defense cannot shut down Florida’s offense in two weeks.

Around the SEC

This week’s games: No. 11 Texas A&M at Mississippi State; No. 15 Auburn at South Carolina; Kentucky at No. 18 Tennessee; Ole Miss at Arkansas; No. 3 Georgia at No. 2 Alabama

Postponed: LSU at No. 10 Florida; Vanderbilt at Missouri

Who’s hot: Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral wasn’t even a projected starter. Yet, coach Lane Kiffin chose him because he’s a better passer than incumbent John Rhys Plumlee. Good call. Corral has passed for at least 320 yards and multiple touchdowns in all three games against Florida, Kentucky and Alabama. He and LSU quarterback Myles Brennan are the only SEC quarterbacks to hit the 300-yard mark in every game.

Who’s not: SEC defenses long have been known for suffocating opponent. Yes … and Gabe Bock was once known for his full head of hair. Times have changed. Half the league is allowing an average of more than 30 points per game. Last season, only two teams allowed 30 points per game: Vanderbilt and Arkansas. As recently as 2015, no SEC defense allowed as many as 28 points per game.

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
Will Rogers saw meaningful snaps last week.

Keep an eye on: The Mississippi State quarterback situation is uncertain. Starter K.J. Costello was benched in last week’s 24-2 loss to Kentucky. True freshman Will Rogers came on and threw two interceptions — half of Costello’s total for the game. Coach Mike Leach was non-committal when asked if Costello would remain the starter. Costello has thrown nine interceptions and has had a pick-six in every game. The Bulldogs have not scored a touchdown in their last five quarters, so Leach might turn to Rogers in hopes of jolting the Bulldogs out of their funk.

Pressure is on: The officiating crew in the Auburn at South Carolina game must be accurate. Poor officiating has played a major role in two Auburn victories. Kentucky was denied a touchdown just before the half that could have changed the outcome of a 29-13 Auburn victory. Officials then blew a call on a botched spike in the final seconds of Auburn’s game against Arkansas. That allowed the Tigers a chance to kick a game-winning field goal. If not for the officiating gaffes, Auburn might be 0-3 rather than 2-1, and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn would be listed in this category. Well, except for the $21.45 million buyout it would cost to fire him. Malzahn’s safe for at least another year.

Best matchup: Alabama boasts the nation’s highest-scoring offense at 51 points per game. Georgia is allowing 12.3 points to rank fifth in the country in scoring defense. So, Alabama’s offense vs. Georgia’s defense is easily the best matchup. Take it a step farther, though. Alabama has the nation’s most explosive passing game with quarterback Mac Jones and receivers Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and John Metchie. Georgia has perhaps the nation’s premier secondary with safety Richard LeCounte and cornerback Eric Stokes leading the way.

Discussion from...

SEC Round-Up: Alabama-Georiga could confirm long-term shifts in SEC

2,973 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 2 yr ago by MMantle
West Point Aggie
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Using anything this season to confirm or disprove anything about the SEC, seem premature.

The b12, on the other hand, blows just like we all knew it did!
Let’s Go Brandon!
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Georiga ?

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